Happy Diwali! This Festival of Lights is India’s biggest and brightest religious celebration. Diwali means “rows of lighted lamps” in Sanskrit. Diwali spiritually represents the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair. We celebrated Diwali twice this year, once at Pondicheri and a second time at The Pierre. We are excited to share our holiday festivities with you.
a little history
Diwali commemorates the return of the Hindu God, Rama, along with his wife, Sita, and his brother, Lakshman, to their kingdom following 14 years of exile after defeating the demon king, Ravana. Villagers celebrated Rama’s return by illuminating the streets and their homes with diya lamps and firecrackers. On a deeper level, Diwali celebrates this triumph of good over evil. Diwali also marks the beginning of the new year in some parts of India.
Diwali falls between October and November based on the Hindu lunar calendar. The festivities last five days, with the major celebrations taking place on the third day. During Diwali, Hindus incorporate light by lighting diya lamps to keep darkness out of their hearts and to embrace goodness and knowledge. Houses are decorated with colorful rangoli artworks using colored rice or powder or flowers. Some Hindus believe that Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, travels through all our homes on Diwali night and stops to bless the brightly lit homes. Like Christmas, Diwali is a time for buying and exchanging gifts and enjoying a traditional feast and sweets.
We used Splash to custom create our beautiful, bright online invitation (think Evite, Paperless Post and Punchbowl), manage contact lists (think MailChimp), sell tickets and track RSVPs (think Eventbrite). You can find our original invitation here.
We selected a bold color palette featuring shades of pink, purple, green, turquoise and orange.
Printables: We purchased Diwali printables from Cutieparty on Etsy. Printables are an easy way to create festive decor without breaking the bank. We framed the Diwali printouts, scattered food tents on the buffet table and placed drink flags on the cocktails. We also incorporated a Sanskrit inspired font, Ananda Namaste, to complete our printables.
Lights: Since Diwali is a festival of lights, we incorporated diya lamps to brighten our space and to pay homage to the villagers in the legend.
Rangoli: We created our beautiful floral rangoli with yellow daisies, white dendrobium orchids, fuchsia rose petals and multi-colored diya lamps. These colorful artworks can also be made with colored rice, powder or sand.
Flowers: Inga of International Garden created our colorful bouquets with yellow calla lilies, fuchsia tulips and bud vases. We scattered these arrangements on the bar, buffet and favor tables.
Backdrop: We purchased a stunning Indian backdrop from Etsy. We could have created the bright backdrop with lots of fabric but we thought it would be easier to order a pre-made fabric backdrop.
what to wear
Our guests got into the spirit of Diwali by wearing brightly colored traditional garments. Ladies wore a mix of saris, lehengas, salwar kameez, anarkalis and Indian inspired tunics while men mostly wore kurtha pajamas. Ladies who didn’t have time to get a traditional outfit accessorized with Indian scarves, bindis and jewelry. Special thanks to Heritage India Fashions for dressing some of our guests.
Sari: Single garment that is wrapped around the waist and draped over the shoulder and paired with a form fitting blouse
Lehenga: Three piece garment that includes a long skirt often elaborately embroidered with beads, shisha mirrors or other ornaments, a blouse and a dupatta scarf
Salwar Kameez: Three piece garment with loose pajama-like trousers, a long tunic and a dupatta scarf
Anarkali: Floor length gown with embellishments and a dupatta scarf
Bindi: Decorative mark worn in the middle of the forehead
Kurta Pajama: Two piece garment consisting of a loose knee length shirt and lightweight drawstring trousers
Sherwani: Coat like garment usually long and worn over a kurta
Mojari: Traditional handcrafted Indian shoes
what to eat
Guests feasted on a modern take on traditional appetizers and entrees:
Sweet Potato Samosas
Lentil Dumpling Chaat
Kashmiri Chicken Biryani
Seven Vegetable Stew
Cucumber Apple Raita
what to drink
We believe every party needs a specialty cocktail. The signature Diwali libation was a Sharbat Cocktail. We recommend pairing Indian food with a semisweet Riesling. The acidity in Riesling cuts through the creaminess of Indian curry while the sweetness allows the wine to complement the heat and spice of the food.
Create the Rangoli and Light the Diya: Archana, our mom and our friends, Camille and Yuyu, designed our beautiful rangoli with assorted flowers and diya lamps. Hindus believe rangolis invite the Goddess Lakshmi and attract prosperity and good luck into the home. Lighting the diya is an important part of the Diwali ritual as Hindus believe light brings brightness and knowledge and dispels darkness and ignorance.
Apply Henna: Yumna designed beautiful artworks on the guests’ hands, wrists and arms.
Participate in a Fashion Show: We held a Bollywood fashion show to determine the best dressed male and female. We tasked our parents and their friend with judging the competition. We awarded an India Pale Ale to our friend Chris and bangles to our friend Theresa.
Strike a Bollywood Pose: We believe every party needs Photo Booth props. We purchased these beautiful Diwali props from Etsy. Guests were photographed with diya lamps, firecrackers, lotus flowers, beards and other Diwali props. The henna artworks were perfect photo op accessories too.
give them a piece of bollywood
Guests departed with festive Indian bling. Ladies received bindis, while the gentlemen took home Rakhi bracelets. Hindus believe bindis represent a person’s mystical third eye. Although bindis are rooted in Hindu tradition, they have transformed over time and have become popular accessories and fashion statements. During the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandana, sisters give their brothers Rakhis or scared threads to symbolize the bond between siblings.
We had an amazing time at our second annual Diwali party. We celebrated Diwali at The Pierre a few days later, and will post this party next week.
“With a hope that you can attain success and bliss with every light that is lit on the day of Diwali” ––Anonymous
diwali indeed is the best festival. Nice pictures. I quite liked the diwali bar thing and mehendi too.
Thanks Shoma! We love sharing this celebration with our family, friends and readers!
I’ve always associated light, bright colours, beautiful clothes and fancy decorations with Hindu festivals. Diwali is no longer a foreign word to me – thanks to your post I’ve learned so much about it. The smiley faces of your guests say it all – the party was a great success. 🙂 Kate (http://katswhiskers47.com)
Thanks Kate! We cant wait to top the celebration next year.
That must have been one super Diwali party! Everything looked beautiful and simply perfect! I am glad your guests had a taste of Indian cuisine, customs and festival, too!
Thanks Shilpa. We loved sharing our celebration with our friends and readers
Wow ! really happy to see you guys celebrating Diwali with so much enthusiasm .
Thanks Preeti. Stay tuned to see how we top next year's festivities!
India is vibrant country and festivals are the best time to display it. Even foreigners love to get so flamboyantly dressed up.
We completely agree Judy!
i love how colorful everything is during diwali! 😀 honestly, i know diwali but i'm never really familiar with what it is about. thank you for the enlightment now that i know it's not just a day with colorful lights, but also the philosophy behind it too. 😀
Thanks Marya! We loved sharing the meaning of this special day with our readers